Old game called either Life or Real Life?

As a kid — i.e. when I was way too young for it — I played this text adventure game called either Life or Real Life (I believe it was labeled both ways) that I have some pretty strong memories and that I’ve made some references to in my own IF. I’ve tried on and off to find it but there’s nothing on IFDB, and as you might imagine, looking up “life text adventure” isn’t super helpful.

The context for how I played it is that when I was about 7 my weird and beloved hacker uncle upgraded to a STATE OF THE ART 1988 DOS PC and gave me his Apple IIE along with several dozen disks of what I now know was pirated software. It is extremely plausible that this was even something one of his friends made.

Anyway in the game — uh, you’re about to realize why I was too young for it — you’re making your way around a city and getting into various encounters; I assume there’s a lot of basic “going to work and getting a job”. I’d assume there was some drug and alcohol content, but that left no impression on me. Most of the incidents I remember were sexual.

— In the park you can meet “a jogger looking for a quickie in the bushes”, which I had no idea what that was and the response was pretty ambiguous.

— Later, however, you can either pray or go to confession or something, and it brings up all of various things you did during the game (you know, like I think you could take money from someone, things like that), and one of the things you remember is “sex in the bushes”, and that, my friends, is how I learned what a quickie was.

— You can meet someone in a bathroom who’s also looking for sex, and this is explicitly intended as a gay encounter (I think I remember the jogger being ambiguous though I would also assume it’s a man?). None of the sex was graphically described — actually I believe the response to one of these was the simply the surprisingly open-minded “Interesting, I’ve always wondered how they did that.”

— The game switched to the 80 column display. There may have been some divisions to the screen — like I think there was a section on the right that listed exists and nouns, but I won’t swear to that.

—And the big part that I remember —and if you played my game Zest, I lifted this scene directly as one of the endings — there was a section where you could get hit by a car and die. Immediately it starts flashing a series of screens: “The Book says:” followed by various Bible quotes. You then find yourself in a room with a man on a throne, who points to you and says “Go to Hell.”

I believe it was at that point that I went to my parents with several questions; my dad played the game for about five minutes and then it was taken away and we all had a very long conversation.

In terms of tone, I don’t think it was intended to be Wacky and Comedic — like, it’s not Softporn Adventure. The religious elements — casting the various temptations of the City (if it came from my uncle’s friends, then it would have been New York; but in my gut I think it’s supposed to be San Francisco [perhaps there were hills mentioned?]; it could be generic but the gay content leads me to gravitate to one or the other) as sins, and again, I died and got cast to hell.

But I don’t know if this was a Chick Tract or if it was, you know, confrontational in an ACT-UP style. Certainly it inspired me to pick up these elements in a queer way that a lot of experimental French authors would approve of, and it’s really possible that Life or Real Life was in that vein…and it’s also possible that it’s a shocking rant about The Evils of Society and how you’re going to Hell for your evil life of Vice. The possibilities are endless: This could be from a pissed-off gay man who’s seen too many friends die and who figured this was a more constructive way of venting his anger than fervently wishing lung cancer on Rush Limbaugh; this could be a project by a 16-year-old for his youth group. Given the time — this was 1990 at the absolute latest, and I’d assume it was made a couple of years prior to the time I got to it — like, whatever it turns out to be, it’s pretty interesting to have a game like that so early on.

Anyway, you can all see why I would be curious to revisit this one. I mean it sounds fascinating right??? Does anybody have any clue what I’m talking about?


It’s “The Greatest Adventure of All!”


(And digging around a bit on the auteur, it’s pretty clear that it’s meant earnestly, not as ironic provocation.)

The original Keys To Solving Computer Adventure Games has map and hints. That’s actually what put it back on my radar as I was going through the old hint books plugging gaps in the IFDB catalog last year.

(how great is it that Real Life and Leather Goddesses are featured in the same book, by the way?)


Oh my god this is amazing. You have solved a 30-year-old mystery. I’m looking forward to seeing how it lines up with my memory, but it’s nice, I suppose, that the religious content was the actual focus and not just a tiny moment that seemed much larger to my little mind. I look forward to going down the Rzeppa rabbit hole, and now I’m curious about how large the world of Christian text adventures is.

Anyway this is super exciting — thanks so much for finding this!!


Please consider having me on as a guest if you do a Real Life Twitch stream!